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The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bulk Logic

The bulk section of the the grocery store contains its greatest treasure. However, it is often the section that is the least-traveled. Just doesn't have the romance you may find in the exotic fruit section. Its plain and simple--by definition. Its solidly within the jurisdiction of the smart shopper, but not much for impulse purchases.

If you need romance in your shopping, just pretend you're waltzing into a general store in the Wild West, scooping out your ration of flour and beans from large barrels, dodging gunfire from the shootout across the street. Cue the player piano. Does that help?

Breakfast costs me 7 cents when you consider that the local co-op sells organic oatmeal for $0.69/lb. Its locally raised, to boot. Bob's Red Mill oatmeal is about 5 times the price. Its still a good deal with breakfast at 35 cents, but why buy that when you can buy it in bulk? Its not like Bob is doing any extra processing for the price--oats is oats is oats, its just more packaging and advertising.

I estimate that dry beans are also about 5 times cheaper than canned beans, as well. Granted, even canned beans--like Bob's oats--are a good deal considering other items at the grocery store, but it goes to show you the enormous deals when it comes to buying bulk, dry foods.

You can find some exotic and gourmet foods in the bulk section, as well. Wonderful turbinado sugar--you know, coffee house sugar--its just $1.59/lb. The local co-op has red lentils, yellow split peas, and as many forms of rice as you could ever want.

The only downside of the bulk section is that its hard to tell how long something's been sitting there, and old beans become difficult to cook--won't soften even after several hours.

I'm learning how to incorporate more bulk items into my diet. Its easy to stock up on beans and rice. Great for soups. Preparing dry beans takes some time, but much of that is passive--soak the beans for 8 hours, put them in a crock pot for 8 hours, for example. I like to cook up a big batch of beans for a week's worth of food and then freeze the remainder--all that cooking can keep you in beans for a few weeks if you prepare and freeze enough.

Beans don't have to be plain, either. Cuban beans over rice are wonderful. You make them with peppers, hot peppers, onions and garlic--maybe a slice of bacon/bacon grease for flavor. Pour a batch of that over some hot rice!

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